Jan. 29--QUESTION: We are now in a position where we need to buy our own medical insurance. Is there a website or agency we can contact to help us compare different companies and their plans?
ANSWER: The Insurance Division of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is a good resource. Go to tinyurl.com/b5nekek.
But beginning Oct. 1, the nonprofit, federally funded Hawai'i Health Connector will have a website where consumers will be able to compare insurance plans offered by carriers who choose to participate, said Gordon Ito, the state insurance commissioner.
Insurers that choose not to list on that exchange still can be found through the Insurance Division, he said.
The Hawai'i Health Connector was set up by the state Legislature in 2011 to be an online health insurance exchange for Hawaii residents in compliance with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance, sometimes called "the individual purchase mandate," begins Jan. 1, 2014, Ito said.
The Hawaii Medical Service Association, Kaiser Permanente, the University Health Alliance and the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association are the only local insurers now writing employer-based insurance in Hawaii, and, of these, only HMSA and Kaiser write individual nongroup policies, he said.
Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave the Hawai'i Health Connector conditional approval to operate the health insurance exchange. Final approval is expected to be given before Oct. 1, said Brian Fitzgerald, a spokes-- man for the Hawai'i Health Connector.
He described the forthcoming website "to be the portal that small businesses and individuals can go to to put in their criteria and bring up qualifying plans."
Open enrollment would begin Oct. 1, with plans taking effect Jan. 1.
You should be hearing more about the Hawai'i Health Connector in the coming months through community outreach and publicity, Fitzgerald said. Meanwhile, check www.hawaiihealthconnector.com.
Even when the health insurance exchange is up and running, Ito said, consumers will still be able to contact his office with questions and complaints.
"However, we are working with the Connector on defining who handles what," he said. He said the Hawai'i Health Connector does not fall under the Insurance Division's jurisdiction, "so we would have no authority to do anything about a complaint against the Connector."
QUESTION: Near the Board of Water Supply pumping station at the bottom of Makiki Heights Drive is an open chain-link enclosure that's become a "trash magnet" where people discard garbage bags, trash boxes, broken furniture, you name it. It's an eyesore. Wasn't the site once used by the Board of Water Supply for equipment storage?
ANSWER: The property does belong to the BWS. We were told Friday that the agency would send a field crew to remove the trash.
"Unfortunately, because it is by the side of the road and easily accessed, (the property) has been used by people as a dumping site," said spokeswoman Tracy Burgo. "To deter future dumping, the BWS is working on a plan to demolish the enclosure and pad and erect 'No dumping' signs in the area."
To the couple, their daughter and three dogs in their pickup, who found my car keys at Kahana Beach Park, locked my car, called the police and waited around until I backtracked from Puu Manamana trail to look for lost keys. Very grateful and appreciative, I got their beautiful smiles in return for my thanks. Finding people like them reaffirms "Lucky you live in Hawaii." -- LYA
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